A vacation for reflection and assessing

Date: 11, July 2018
After 20 years in Bruxelles you learn to appreciate how the city slowly closes down to a complete standstill for 4-5 weeks in July and August. From the Belgian National day on July 21 to The Catholic holiday of August 15 the town is empty. And with it the EU institutions. But this is not the whole picture. There is always something going on behind the empty streets. This can be high-politics – debt-crisis, immigration-crisis, euro-crisis – or it can be down in the “engine-room” where the rest of us work.

When it comes to regulation of road transport there will be activity in the “engine-room” during this summer holiday! At least mentally! More than one year after the presentation of the Commission’s proposals on new rules for cabotage, letterbox companies, driving and rest time, application of posting of workers, enforcement rules, the negotiations are at the end of a blind alley.

The member states sitting in Council have too different priorities and interests to let a compromise appear at this stage. And in Parliament a number of votes in June and July also showed the lack of a comfortable majority for a solid solution.

The Commission is showing its frustration. After having been asked to deliver proposals for new rules it is of course frustrating to see that the decisions-makers in Council and Parliament keep blocking for progress.

But the real problem is that there are many - and many good - reasons for this standstill. Firstly, the interests are just too big to make compromises easy. The fight against social dumping cannot – and should not – easily accept second or third best solutions. It needs to be a solid solution that will last for years and really prevent social dumping.

Secondly, the economic interests are just too big. Not only between competing road transport operators but also for European industry, which seem to believe wrongly that cheap transport also is cheap in the long run…

Thirdly, Parliament is getting closer to election. It is a political reality that with the importance given to the fight against social dumping many members of Parliament do not want to go out in election with a bad result on road transport. And political realities you need to accept as…realities!

Fourthly, poor timing! The proposals from the Commission just simply arrived too late in the election cyclus – and too many proposals at the same time. These issues are complicated, which is the fifth problem. Driving and rest time is not an easy issue to tackle. It is very difficult to find the right balance between safety, protection of the driver and flexibility for the road operator.

There are many other reasons, but I think this illustrates the situation, and why some vacation for reflection and assessing is important. I still believe a solution will be found. We in NLA also have an interest in revising the existing rules. Of course it needs to be the right solution, but the right solution can be a compromise. But some weeks of vacation is needed, so we all can come back with a clear head, new ideas and fresh energy. Hopefully something will then happen the coming year.

Have a great summer!